Only two hours north of the San Diego Zoo lies Griffith Park. Tucked into a sprawling metropolitan community, the park includes a railroad museum, miniature railroad, theater, an equestrian center, and much more. It is also home to one of the San Diego Zoo’s conservation partners, the Los Angeles Zoo.
I had the opportunity to explore the Los Angeles Zoo’s new six-acre Elephants of Asia habitat that will soon be home to Tina and Jewel. As I walked through the 3.8 acres of elephant yard space, I noticed the soft river sand throughout the enclosure. Think of it as walking along the beach: it takes a little extra effort to get around, which means great exercise for the girls and for Billy, the Los Angeles Zoo’s male Asian elephant. Then I noticed one of two eight-foot deep pools that bumps right up to the sand. The sun was shining, and all I could think of was how fun it will be to watch Tina and Jewel splashing around in their own private oasis on a warm California day.
Depending on whether Tina and Jewel are in “Cambodia,” “Thailand,” “India,” or “China,” they may have the opportunity to enjoy a waterfall or water spout instead. Regardless of what geographic area they meander through, they are bound to find enrichment aplenty, and Los Angeles Zoo guests will get up-close views of the girls while learning about conservation threats to this endangered species, as well as programs underway to help protect Asian elephants.
Tina and Jewel have been at the San Diego Zoo for 14 months. They recovered from a variety of ailments under the watchful eye of San Diego Zoo keepers, veterinarians, nutritionists, and many others. These same people took a look at Los Angeles Zoo’s plans and exhibit and decided that now was the best time to send the two elephants on to the next step of their lives. Tina and Jewel have had the opportunity to interact with a couple of the San Diego Zoo’s other female elephants, but they had not yet integrated into a herd. Because of the space available for the pair to move together to the Los Angeles Zoo’s state-of-the-art elephant habitat, and the experienced elephant keepers ready to care for them, a match was made.
The move will also be an opportunity to reintroduce Billy to elephants with the hope that they will become a herd. I watched Billy lumber through the yard and interact with his keeper. He splashed water and hay over himself and explored his surroundings. It was easy to picture Tina and Jewel there, perhaps enjoying the cool cascade from the 20-foot-tall waterfall. If they need a little more TLC, such as foot care, the girls will go to the state-of-the-art elephant barn, where the floors are warm to the touch and the space comfortable during inclement weather.
When the Los Angeles Zoo designed the exhibit, they were really thinking of everything, including 28 cameras pointed in every direction of the exhibit and barns. It will be a good way to monitor Tina, Jewel, and Billy as they get to know one another and their new home. I can’t wait to see them in their new digs in Los Angeles when it’s completed in December.
Using the protected contact system of elephant management, Jewel and Tina will be under the watchful eye of experienced animal care staff at the Los Angeles Zoo, who are working closely with the San Diego Zoo team to ensure that the two elephants receive the same level of care they received while in San Diego. This collaboration is one example of how San Diego Zoo animal care experts work together with zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to manage rare and endangered species like elephants. The San Diego Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo work together along with other conservation organizations and government agencies to breed and release endangered animals like the California condor and the mountain yellow-legged frog locally.
Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Name the Elephant Calf!
View video of the Los Angeles Zoo’s new elephant habitat.
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